There are not too many living legends from blues music’s heyday around anymore. Besides Buddy Guy, most of the instantly recognizable older bluesman have all passed away. Unfortunately, about a week ago, we lost yet another great musician, Otis Rush, who passed at the age of 84 due to complications from a stroke he suffered a number of years ago.
Like many of his cohorts back in the day, Otis Rush Jr. was born in a very small town in Mississippi before relocating to the blues mecca of Chicago around 1949. Also, the undeniable blues master for most of the players like Rush back then was Muddy Waters who had the most profound influence over Rush and his career path. Rush would go one to be a principle Chicago bluesman, tied to “West Side Chicago Blues” and shepherding the next generation of blues enthusiasts.
Otis Rush wasn’t as well-known by general blues listeners as say B.B. King or Stevie Ray Vaughan, but he influenced several musicians including SRV, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. Although he recorded several albums throughout his career with multiple high-quality labels, Otis Rush only had a few breakout, chart-topping hits. His most popular song was the Willie Dixon tune “I Can’t quit You Baby” which Rush recorded in 1956. It was released through Cobra Records and reached the number 6 spot on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1956. As I mentioned above, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page loved Rush’s music and guitar style. This prompted Zeppelin to add their version of the song on their debut album Led Zeppelin.
According to Joe Bonamassa, Otis Rush was “one of the greatest [blues musicians] ever and one of the last true masters.” Rest easy Mr. Rush, thank you for your music!
Keeping The Blues Alive